Paris, Texas (1984)
"A place for dreams. A place for heartbreak. A place to pick up the pieces. "
A European View Of America
At face value, the screen story, about a dysfunctional family, is weak.
The plot is not really credible. The lead character (Travis) is an
older man who in the first ten minutes of the film wonders alone in the
desert like a horse with no name, seemingly suffering from severe
trauma. But Travis' later behavior and the behavior of other characters
in the film are not believable, given this opening gambit.
However, if we discard our need to interpret behavior rationally, then
the film works, either as a dream or, more generically, as a parable of
modern day America, from the viewpoint of a European film director. The
characters and their journey through the film's story are symbolic of
American culture as a whole, with its ever-present loneliness, urban
alienation, emotional separation, and general rootlessness.
The film's visuals and music combine to prop up the thin story, and
give the film its enduring cultural theme. Cinematographer Robby
Muller's images are stunning. His location shots both in the desert and
in the urban jungle, using polarizing filters, are works of true
photographic art. The images, with their florescent greens, reds,
blues, and yellows in dim light are just terrific. More than any
dialogue could, these visuals effectively convey the loneliness,
alienation, and lost love that are so characteristically American. And
Ry Cooder's simple but haunting Tex-Mex guitar sounds amplify this grim
The film's main flaw is its length. With a runtime of 150 minutes, some
parts of the film could have been edited out, without loss of the
"Paris, Texas" is a memorable art house film about the modern American
experience. Like other art house films, the story is not necessarily to
be taken literally. Instead, the story provides narrative support for
the visuals, the music, and other film elements, the combination of
which imparts some broader or deeper social message than could be
conveyed by story alone.